Exploring World Geography (Gr. 9-12)

Rounding out Notgrass’ high school social studies is their longed-for World Geography course. It does not disappoint. There are two gorgeous, full-color Texts plus a unique book called the Gazetteer full of continental and regional maps plus some original source material. These three books make up the Curriculum Package. Carefully chosen literature selections (literature package coming soon!) add depth and perspective to the study. These are listed as the Required Resources. The course is rounded out by a selection of study materials in the Student Review Pack – Student Review Book, Quiz/Exam book, and Teacher Notes/Answer Key.

More impressive, though, than the quality of the course components, is the perspective. Two main questions form the foundation. “1. How has the physical world made a difference in what people have done, how they have lived, and how they live today? 2. How have people made a difference in the physical world and are they making a difference in it today?” Helping the student gain insight into answering these questions provides the “why” of this course.

The organization is Notgrass iconic, with 150 lessons divided into 30 weekly units each with five daily lessons – four on geography and one on worldview. Each unit’s introduction includes a brief overview of the unit, list of lessons, Bible passage to memorize, and list of books used in the unit plus several suggestions for a unit project. There are 12 literature selections for the year so the student will be reading a book every 2-3 weeks. When a new book is started the unit overview also includes an introduction to the book. Full completion of the course assignments earns three high school credits – one in geography, one in English (literature and composition), and one in biblical and Christian worldview.

While weekly assignments are outlined in the unit introduction, each daily lesson provides its own assignment list. These include text readings, review questions for lessons and Gazetteer, review questions and literary analysis, as well as map skills assignments. There are also weekly geography quizzes every unit with full geography, English, and worldview exams every five units. If not careful, each Friday can become a day full of assignment wrap-ups. It helps to spread things out through the week. To help with that an assignment checklist is available as a free download at the Notgrass website.

All textual material is found in Part 1 and Part 2 of the World Geography Text. These are highly readable with plentiful full-color photos, maps, and illustrations. The Gazetteer compares to other Notgrass’ original source readers but the content is unsurprisingly more map oriented. Covering the world geographically by regions and continents and starting in the Middle East, there are regional/continental maps plus one page for each country in the world. The country pages feature full-color maps with physical features and capitals. They also include the country’s flag, population, style of government, major religions, an on-site photo, and both a geography highlight and “fun fact.” These map pages take up about two-thirds of the book. The remainder is original source material accompanied by historical maps, personal accounts, and excellent photos and graphics.

There are a number of study aids built into the course materials. For instance, suggestions for compiling worldview and map skill notebooks, tips for memorization, project-planning insights, and writing advice which includes helps for writing a research paper. Literature selections illustrate geography in various places around the world. Accordingly, while reading these, the student is encouraged to take note of geographic features and worldview and the role of each in the story. While simply reading the books and enjoying them is an option, there are helps if you want to dig deeper. Literary analysis of each selection as well as both content and analysis questions are provided.

The Student Review Pack is designed to help measure both student progress and understanding. Three components make up the pack. The consumable Student Review Book provides review questions for each Text or Gazetteer segment as well as the literature questions. Map Skills assignments are also found in this book. The Quiz and Exam Book – also consumable – provides the multiple-choice quizzes for each unit. After every five units there are three different exams – for geography, English, and worldview content. As the name implies, the answers for these are in the Guide for Parents and Answer Key. This resource also includes some helpful information for parents in terms of grading and walking with their student through the course. Particularly appreciated by some will be the “heads up” section on each literature book that points out content you may want to monitor.

I must admit that I am considering “taking” this course. I am sure it’s about time I update my decades-old geographical information bank. I’m also sure it will be an enjoyable and perspective-expanding learning experience. ~ Janice

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